JEFF: Giant Sized Confidence
By Jeff Falconio
There's so much talk about confidence heading into Sunday's NFC Championship game. Hey, why not? Both teams absorbed the best punch their opponents could offer then answered back with one of their own. For the Packers it was surviving the first four minutes before unleashing six straight touchdown drives. For the Giants it was the final minute of the first half in last week's win over Dallas. The Cowboys embarked on a 20-play odyssey to take a 14-7 lead. Texas Stadium was rocking and the Giants were rolling. 46 seconds after Dallas took the lead New York tied it up then took over in the second half.
So where did this confidence come from? Many point to the final week of the season as the catalyst for New York's run to the NFC title game. The Giants stared down the unbeaten Patriots and nearly disrupted the perfect season.
But the Giants had been playing confidently far earlier in the season. It started back in Week Three. New York started the season 0-2 and at the half against Washington the Giants were down 17-3. The season was slipping away almost as fast as it started. New York rallied for three touchdowns to take a 24-17 lead. In the final minute Washington drove to New York's one yard line. The Giants had been pushed around for two-and-a-half games and it was time for stand. In four plays the Redskins didn't move an inch. The season was saved and a now-fired up defense helped New York reel off six straight wins.
Then in Week Sixteen the Giants were in Buffalo. Despite being 9-5 there was an outside shot New York wouldn't make the playoffs with Washington and Minnesota both surging. The Giants were down 21-17 going into the final quarter but the defense saved the day again. New York would score three times, two of which were defensive touchdowns to seal a 38-21 playoff-clinching win.
Meanwhile, the Giants reinvented themselves on offense. Brandon Jacobs made New Yorkers forget about Tiki Barber and rookie Ahmad Bradshaw brought a dash of quickness to New York's backfield. The Giants became a power running team and quarterback Eli Manning settled into an efficient role that doesn't require him to throw the ball 40 times a game. With a resurgent defense and a bruising offense the Giants are riding high and full of confidence but will it last long enough for one more road win? Only a team playing as confidently as the Giants could take down New York now and that's a perfect description of the Green Bay Packers.